Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett says it is still unclear how much damage a Chinese coal carrier has caused to the Great Barrier Reef off central Queensland.
The Shen Neng 1 ran aground on Douglas Shoal, east of Rockhampton, on Saturday, spilling more than two tonnes of fuel oil into the ocean but that has been dispersed with chemicals.
Two ships have arrived at the site to help pump out the remaining 950 tonnes of oil onto a bunker barge.
They are also carrying inflatable booms to contain any spill.
Mr Garrett says the operation will help reduce the risk of further damage to the reef.
“A vessel of this size is going to have some impact – the extent of that impact we won’t know until the vessel is successfully removed,” he said.
Authorities expect to start pumping oil from the ship by Friday morning.
Federal Opposition environment spokesman Greg Hunt says there should be an inquiry into ships taking shortcuts through the Great Barrier Reef.
Mr Hunt says he is also pushing for tougher fines.
“We want this practice stopped,” he said.
“We want the fines for taking shortcuts deliberately out of the shipping channels, through the Barrier Reef, quadrupled.”